'Caribbean Callaloo' was a mixture of entertainment and education.

TAIWAN/CARIBBEAN: – Caribbean students in Taiwan were showered with praises for an event on Saturday that showcased the eight Caribbean countries whose students study in the Asian nation.

The event, dubbed “Caribbean Callaloo”, highlighted elements of the culture, cuisine, heritage, and music of Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts/Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

“The show was awesome. I liked the performances and the cultural sharing with friend,” a Taiwanese, who identified himself as Henry, said of the event.

Henry, who did not have a ticket to the sold-out event, had waited for 30 minutes after the show started while organizers tried to decide how to accommodate non-ticket-holders. (Watch highlights of show at end of this page)

He was especially impressed by the steelpan performance by Vashti Carr of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I never knew this music was made from the steel drum. I have heard that music many times before but I have never seen an actual instrument,” said Henry, who grew up in Canada.

Taiwanese Peggy Lee said she liked the traditional dresses but felt that the three-hour show was a little too long.

“It was a lovely night,” Belize ambassador to Taiwan, Efrain Novelo, told I Witness-News after the show.

“The fact that the theme says one culture, one people, one heritage, and one cuisine – importantly, that is the message we Caribbean people are brining to Taiwan. I must commend the organizers. Please do it again,” he said.

Novela, while bringing greetings at the beginning of the show, noted that students had invested a lot of time into organizing the event, which had financial and other support from the four Caribbean embassies in Taipei: Belize, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and St. Kitts/Nevis.

“This is what we expect for the next year, and the following year will be bigger and better,” Novelo said, as he pledged his embassy’s continued support for such Caribbean activities. (More photos)

“We welcome and support this kind of international student activity and we will continue to do so,” said Shan-hsian Hsieh of National Taiwan University’s (NTU) Office of International Affairs, one of the main sponsors of the event.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for our international students to introduce their culture, their food and their history to our local students,” he told the audience at the beginning of the show.

The event climaxed with a mini carnival onstage.

Haiti ambassador to Taiwan, Mario Chouloute, Ambassador Jasmine Huggins of St. Kitts/Nevis, and the Deputy Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Taiwan also greeted the audience.

Chouloute suggested that the Caribbean students learn French and proposed, lightheartedly, that the next Caribbean Callaloo event be conducted using French or Haitian Creole.

He said “unfortunately” Haiti was the only independent country in the Caribbean that speaks French. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)

“However, for the totally integration of the region, I suggest you study French,” Chouloute said, while Huggins encourage all international students in Taiwan to immerse themselves in the nation’s culture.

In welcoming guest to the event, Vincentian Tasheka Haynes, who coordinated the event, noted that Caribbean students in Taiwan had invested much time and effort in the event but said that many of them did not want public acknowledgement.

“Today, we celebrate Caribbean heritage, culture, music, and cuisine. However, most of all, we celebrate Caribbean people,” St. Lucian Alisha Eugene said in her opening remarks.

She noted that while each Caribbean nation “has its own unique and distinguishing elements” they are “all blessed with natural beauty and tranquillity, complimented by warm, friendly people”.

“It is little wonder that our region is often, and appropriately, associated with paradise,” she said.

Haiti shines

Haitian students showed another side of their country.

Haiti has been on the tongue of Taiwanese on the heel of the Jan. 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ravaged the island and left 250, 000 dead.

However, Haitian students were among the brightest stars of the show, with their singing and dancing.

Haitian physician, Dr. Nadjy Joseph also appealed to the audience to “help Haiti rise again,” in a presentation that drew on her experience when she returned to Haiti to volunteer in the wake of the earthquake.

Leander Calixte of St. Lucia and Shafana Williams and Cattianna Prescott of SVG performed a dramatization and rendition of Singing Sandra’s “Die with my dignity”, a song that encourages women not to prostitute themselves for social advancement.

The show also featured displays of Caribbean hairstyles, traditional wear, and beach and casual wear, in additional to a stand-up comedy segment by Kwesi Richards of SVG. There were also traditional dances from St. Lucia, Belize, and the Dominican Republic.

Francisca Emmanuel of St. Lucia gave a spirited recital of Sharon Trezelle’s “The Middle Passage” while Silkie Prescott of SVG opened the show with a warm rendition of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”.

The show climaxed with a carnival-like scene as members of the audience joined costume-clad students in a display that mirrored a Caribbean Mardi Gras. The display was a teaser for the after-party at a night club in Taipei.

Guests were served dinner after the event and several display booths provided unique information on some of the countries represented at “Caribbean Callaloo”.